HOW will England cope against Pakistan this autumn? We got our cricket expert Josh Healey (@joshhealey04) to share his thoughts.
Pakistan v England | Series Correct Score | 13th October – 5th November
Sometimes exhilarating, sometimes underwhelming, and most of the time completely mental. England’s cricketing summer was peculiar, but more importantly it was successful.
The regaining of the Ashes accompanied with the rapid rebirth of the one-day side reinvigorated the previously disillusioned fans, but the real test starts now.
A gruelling winter away from home begins in October as England head to Pakistan’s adopted home – the UAE. The hosts are not technically on home soil, but they hold the advantage nonetheless.
The UAE has served Pakistan well – W4-D4-L1 is their Test series record here. Looking at individual Tests, that’s W11-D4-L7. Meanwhile England have W3-D4-L3 of their last 10 tours dating back to 2008.
The hosts are 10/11 favourites with the tourists as big as 3/1, rightly indicating what a stern test this will be for a developing England side. Inconsistency and unpredictability is rife among these two teams; outstanding one match and largely hopeless the next. For that reason the 10/11 on Pakistan isn’t enticing enough. The hosts look likely winners, but I’m not investing at that price.
And so we enter the correct score market, and immediately it’s the 6/1 from Stan James on a 2-1 Pakistan victory that jumps out. The tourists surely have enough to secure a sole win, but the hosts’ experience and skill in such conditions should ultimately prevail.
Spin will be crucial this series, and it’s Pakistan who hold the trump card in that department. Yasir Shah has enjoyed an incredible start to his Test career, taking 61 wickets in 19 innings at 24.81. The leg-spinner will be accompanied by the less threatening left-armer Zulfiqar Babar.
To rival that, England have Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid. Both will relish these conditions, but how the latter will fare in his debut series is anyone’s guess. There remain doubts over Rashid’s consistency in line and length, but he can extract sharp turn. Neither are world class, but there have been brief glimpses of a productive partnership blossoming.
Although the Pakistan batting line-up is unpredictable, it is adept at playing spin. In stark contrast the turning ball has been England’s Achilles heel for some time, and it will require a supreme effort from this youthful side to swiftly rectify that.
To make things tougher for England, the ball will not nip around as it does back home. As a result their quicks could be nullified; we know how toothless they are on turgid pitches. But the one saving grace is that reverse swing will come into play later in the innings.
Jimmy Anderson, Ben Stokes, and Mark Wood (if he is selected) are excellent exponents of reverse swing. This is a vital tool in the armoury for England and it is crucial they utilise it to the best of their abilities, otherwise wicket-taking will rest upon the shoulders of the rookie spin duo.
Another major issue for the tourists is their lack of batsmen who can bat time and grind out runs in difficult periods. This summer’s batting displays fluctuated from the spectacular to the downright catastrophic. That deficiency could cost them here as Shah and Babar are capable of building sustained pressure.
If England display tenacity and grit with the bat whilst remaining patient and disciplined with the ball, they could spring a surprise. They certainly have enough about them to win one game, but this transitional side is hampered by the absence of a settled opening partnership, a genuine world class spinner, and a rock at number five.
These drawbacks accompanied with the conditions suiting Pakistan puts the hosts in the driving seat, and if they perform to their capabilities they should edge the series.
Pakistan v England – Pakistan to win 2-1 (6/1 Stan James)